Frontliners on Easter Sunday in a COVID hospital
I get up, get ready and go out. The road that leads me to the COVID hospital, where I take service, is spectacular. A dazzling sun, a clear sky, the pheasants on the edge, new masters of the road, regardless of my passage, turn to the speed of the car, happy to be groomed properly, on a road that was once very busy.
I park and go down with my trusty trolley in search for the ICU entrance. This is a new COVID hospital today. It is the fourth I have attended since the emergency started.
I enter and, as always, I see new faces and new people. For a little adaptation, the night doctor gives me the deliveries about the patients, and off I go, ready to enter. As always I write the name on the white suit where the patients are.
The two tenants
It is a “single room” intensive therapy. It is divided into two areas, there are only 4 total patients out of 16 beds available today. For three days now the number of tenants in this place has gone down. My colleague takes charge of two patients and I take care of the other two. I visit and evaluate them.
The first person is very serious, everything has been done so far in the last 15-20 days, but with his extreme obesity, diabetes, and a lung infection on top of the COVID-19. It looks like he can hardly overcome this. He is asleep to endure lung ventilation. We take care of it and do our best, in the hope that something else will intervene beyond our professional care.
The person next door is a sprightly old man. He was extubated yesterday after 15 days of hospitalization, his eyes are lively despite the delicate physique. He breathes with difficulty but with determination. He will make it if all goes well.
The first surprise in mid-morning; Our chief physician arrives. Damn! It is not for all primary care to show up at Easter to see how the situation is going. He is “old-fashioned” who still “feels” the department as a creature of his. He collects the information, gives us two suggestions and announces a surprise: at noon the fish lunch offered by a well-known restaurant will arrive! Chapeau.
The convivial moment
Lunch is offered by a local restaurateur and it tastes better than in the restaurant! Seafood appetizer, gnocchi with crab, sea bream with potatoes. And finally, the grand finale! The nurse just finished her shift and breaks the huge chocolate easter egg brought by a charity.
In the afternoon, after the new patient visit, the time comes to notify the family. Since the COVID emergency started, family or friends could not visit their sick loved-one because of the infectious risk. Family members receive our call once a day at a set time. It only takes 3 rings to answer. I imagine they are there eagerly awaiting our call.
The son of the first patient is hopeful, he does not give in to the thought that things can go wrong. It is his right to hope and our duty to be sincere. I give the information over the phone and it is more difficult than usual: there is no non-verbal communication. We must weigh every statement, it is like walking on a rope pulled on an overhang: you must maintain professional correctness by giving hope but without creating illusions.
I go to the old man. With the helmet on and with the hood of the suit down, I understand that I have to talk loudly: I ask him if he wants to hear his wife on the phone. I have to persuade him insistently, he’s a little tired, but he likes the idea. I dial the number on the laptop, introduce myself to his wife and announce a little Easter surprise. I put the phone next to the old man and he greets his wife with a whisper. I get the emotion on the other end of the phone: a house somewhere nearby lights up with hope! I pick up the phone again and answered many questions from his wife and received huge gratitude for the news and for how we gave it to him! 🙂
I go inside the room after my 4 hours shift. I miss the air, I’m all sweaty, I feel the air and I take off all the paraphernalia. There are marks of the mask and gloves on my skin. It’s a little thing but I like to document it. A little self-satisfaction is there!
I go out and waiting for the colleague for the change to write these lines. Here too we celebrated an Easter of suffering and surprises.
Easter 2020. COVID-19
Dr. Marco De Nardin